Considering there are billions of websites, videos, podcasts, papers, and books, all available for free, one would suppose that the future of education is already here. One would be wrong.
The educational system has barely changed since the 1800s. Schools are still charging high fees to provide a basic education which is delivered by teachers in increasingly crowded classrooms using books that cost hundreds of dollars each. Education is one of the most valuable tools available to society, but it is also an area in desperate need for an upgrade.
Colleges and universities are among the worst offenders, often charging tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a four year program – while the vast majority of the material is available for free online. College students are forced to learn subjects they don’t want to learn, just to qualify for a particular degree based on an outdated curriculum. And finally, getting a degree does not guarantee getting a job. Most college graduates have no real hands on training in the job they will eventually fill, which is quite frequently not in an area they studied in college.
Colleges and universities have no incentive to change because they have a monopoly on the “certification” system that gives them the authority to issue a piece of paper called a “degree”, and most of their fees are paid for by low interest loans provided by the government. Colleges make billions in profits while students are saddled with a five figure debt before the age of 23. This model is broken.
YouTube Is The New Harvard
In our opinion, the future of education most certainly lies within the Internet. The several million free videos available on YouTube (and other similar video sites), when considered in their entirety, are much more valuable than any Harvard degree. And yet, we don’t get “credit” for educating ourselves by watching videos on sites like YouTube.
While most people only use YouTube to watch cat videos (and other entertainment), there is a ton of valid and useful information out there just waiting to be discovered. We are at a point in human society where anyone who wants to learn something can learn it for free.
How To Provide A Free Education
Education ought to be free – not because it is mandated to be free by the government (and thus not “free”), but because almost everything we want to know is ALREADY available for free, and the rest can only be learned by experience.
More and more traditional educational institutions are opting to put their classes and courses for free online because the marginal cost of doing so is almost zero. While this is a good step forward, colleges and universities will strongly resist offering their entire degrees for free online, since it would risk putting them out of business.
Currently, information on the Internet is being paid for by advertisements, however, we envision a model in the future whereby the student will actually get paid to learn (more info will be made available on this model in the future).
In the meantime, having advertisers pay for the cost of education is vastly superior than paying the astronomical costs of providing education “the old way” whereby the government and the students themselves pay thousands upon thousands of dollars per year, very little of which goes to the actual instructors, and a large amount of which pays for “intangibles” like campus maintenance, administrative duties, and bureaucratic paper pushing.
Of course, the major problem with using the Internet as an educational tool is that there is so much junk out there, it can be difficult to discern the quality of the information. That is one of the problems this website is attempting to address, albeit in a very small way.
Classrooms and Libraries Are Going Extinct – And That’s A Good Thing
One of the arguments against purely online educational systems is that they lack the human social interaction found in more traditional classroom settings. However, with the advent of the Internet, groups can meet up almost anywhere and get work done in public spaces without requiring millions of dollars worth of infrastructure to hold meetings in special places called “classrooms”.
While classrooms may still add value in the future of education, we find the cost of providing traditional educational infrastructure is vastly overpriced, given the availability of information and technology we have today.
Even traditional libraries are a waste of society’s resources, given the fact that more information than any library could ever hold is available for free at the touch of one’s smartphone. Providing free Internet would be a vastly more effective use of tax dollars than would a multi million dollar library that houses a few thousand books (few of which will actually be read). Paper books, while nostalgically cool and useful, also add to deforestation and other environmental issues, plus they cannot be easily copied and shared like digital information can be. While people might prefer the “touch and feel” of a real book, tell that to a classroom in Africa that can’t afford “real” books. The digital version will do just fine, thanks.
Down With Copyright
As a writer, I fully understand the principles behind copyright, however, the reality is that information ought to be shared for free without barriers. As a society we are beyond the point where it even makes sense to “own” information. Information ought to be published and available for all the public to see. Any of the information found on this website may be copied and shared as long as you provide a link to the original source.
One of the risks of spending too much time online is that students will not develop human to human social and managerial skills. However, community meetups are now available in most cities globally.
Services like meetup.com enable practically anyone to start learning and interacting with people with similar interests in their local community, an experience that is vastly richer and more valuable to a student than a boring classroom. Community meetups are generally open to the entire community, rather than reserved for students of a certain age group, which makes the interactions much more “life-like” than a classroom environment. Such meetups are vastly more valuable in terms of real world experience, community networking, and developing social skills than the classroom environment upon which traditional education is built.